TOMY­MIND COLLEEN NAUDÉ

Finweek English Edition - - Online -

EQUAL­ITY BE­FORE THE LAW is one of the rights en­joyed by cit­i­zens in a demo­cratic sys­tem. It’s that right that two of the ac­cused in one of South Africa’s big­gest fraud cases – which has now been drag­ging on for al­most seven years – are in­vok­ing. For­mer Tigon CEO Gary Por­ritt and for­mer di­rec­tor of the com­pany Sue Ben­nett were ar­rested in De­cem­ber 2002 and March 2003 re­spec­tively on 3 200 charges of fraud, money laun­der­ing, theft and vi­o­la­tions of the Com­pa­nies Act. That fol­lowed sus­pi­cious share trad­ing by Tigon ex­ec­u­tives that had been un­cov­ered by Fi­nance Week (as Fin­week was then known) as far back as April 2002.

Last week, both ac­cused ap­pealed to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court af­ter the High Court in Jo­han­nes­burg or­dered Le­gal Aid SA to al­lo­cate two ad­vo­cates at a cost of around R3 000/day per ad­vo­cate to each of them. They be­lieve such ‘cheap’ le­gal teams won’t do jus­tice to the de­fence of their com­plex case and they want the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to or­der much more ex­pe­ri­enced – read ex­pen­sive – ad­vo­cates to de­fend them. Oth­er­wise, they say, they won’t re­ceive a fair hear­ing, es­pe­cially due to the com­plex­i­ties of the case.

The long list of al­leged vi­o­la­tions is the re­sult of an al­leged se­ries of com­pli­cated ac­count­ing ma­nip­u­la­tions that led, among other things, to un­sus­pect­ing in­vestors be­ing mis­led with prom­ises of large amounts sup­pos­edly tied up in Tigon. The duped vic­tims re­ceived no com­pen­sa­tion at all and have been wait­ing for years to see the law take its course.

White-col­lar crim­i­nals, who con­jure up un­be­liev­ably in­ge­nious schemes, are of­ten too slick to be caught. When they ac­tu­ally are, pros­e­cut­ing them can take for ever. And most of those mas­ter­minds also suc­ceed in us­ing de­lay­ing tac­tics to draw out the prose­cu­tion process for as long as pos­si­ble. The lat­est move by Por­ritt and Ben­nett looks sus­pi­ciously like a de­lay­ing tac­tic.

There doesn’t seem to be any rea­son why both of them – who have in any case been able to cough up around R23m in le­gal fees up to end-May this year – should re­ceive spe­cial treat­ment.

They won’t get sup­port from the gen­eral pub­lic – es­pe­cially not from their al­leged vic­tims – for their at­tempts at wast­ing more of tax­pay­ers’ money in seek­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment com­pared to other ac­cused.

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